5 Questions to Ask Yourself before Using Dating Apps

            I’m not saying that dating apps killed romance as it was largely known, but, well, let’s say for every rose you’ll get a handful of thorns. For many people, dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge are the easiest and most popular way to meet, match, and date. Whether they’ve just moved to a new area, are visiting, are looking for a hookup, rebound, or something else, or so much more, we can’t deny the versatility and possibility of these apps when it comes to the chance of a (genuine romantic) connection.

            I know people who met online or on apps and later went on into successful long-term relationships, and even marriage. Likewise, it is still possible to meet people in the “real world”, but may prove harder nowadays thanks to social distancing or other factors. Before using dating apps, however, I’d recommend reflecting on several key questions to make the experience work for you. Your answers may change over time or even based on the app or individual cases, but knowing beforehand how you might handle certain scenarios will help when they pop-up. (And prevent late night panic Googling). I’ve narrowed them down to five broad questions which can cover almost any app and experience; everyone will answer these differently, and I don’t expect my own answers to be a universal standard.

What are you looking for (in a relationship)?

            Knowing this ahead of time will inevitably help you the numerous times someone will ask you the question, especially if you can get the wording down. Are you looking for something casual—FWB, NSA, a one night fling, etc.? Are you looking for short-term dating or are you open to something long-term, and how serious? Additionally, you may note that many people will be up-front about whether they’re ethically non-monogamous or poly. That is also something worth pondering (as it does seem to be increasing within certain aspects of the population), but there’s nothing wrong with being monogamous. My own answer, honed over time, evolved into “more serious than a hookup, but more casual than marriage.” As with all things, though, you never know what you’ll find!

What are you looking for (in a person)?

            I’ve already written about some of the basic things that make me swipe right or left on a profile, but that’s because I, largely, had a personal standard ahead of time. With your ideal relationship in mind, some people will rule themselves out automatically, but you shouldn’t be afraid to figure out what your “type” is based on looks and personality. That said, sticking to the same thing leaves a lot unexplored, so I do recommend seeing if there’s someone out there who doesn’t seem like the kind of person you’d be into, but may surprise you. If you know what garners an automatic no versus a maybe or a yes ahead of time, you may end up connecting with more people.

Are you willing to share off-app contact info and/or social media? If yes, how much and under what circumstances?

            For some, this question isn’t really a question as you’ll see plenty of profiles with their handles listed right there for easy contact. For others, this is a more nuanced thought-process. Overwhelmingly, many males will use off-app contact as consent for explicit content or a sign of interest in that eventually. At the same time, it’s true that a lot of guys have become inundated with requests for payment in order to access the women they’re chatting with (putting aside that sex work is real work). It also depends on what you’re already sharing or what might be revealed. I’m not lying when I say that YOU changed how I perceived others viewing my content. As such, I rarely give access to my social media to people I chat with on dating apps, and will only move off-app after they’ve gotten to know me (put in the effort).

Are you willing to meet? At what point? (During a pandemic?)

             If the talking phase goes well, most will ask to meet you. Again, this ties back to the idealized relationship and your comfort (not theirs). If you’re looking for a hookup then meeting up the same night as the connection doesn’t seem an inaccurate timeline. Others may recommend talking a little bit to establish that connection before meeting within a week, or else you’ll just be trapped in the talking forever. However, it is important to remember that we’re dating during a pandemic and you should follow your local guidelines. Here in the States that obviously requires a bit more negotiation, but I’ve seen people dating as safely as possible. In other countries, dating is largely as it was or safer still. The great thing about technology, though, is that virtual dating is largely possible—and has some great options for fun. We are all people with our own schedules and lives so sometimes finding the time can be difficult—ships may pass in the night—but you just have to make it work. In non-pandemic times, I require a prolonged talking phase (which automatically rules out some) before a first meeting. At the moment, however, I’ve been stuck in perpetual talking phases and seeing someone, who we’ll call Soleil, via the magic of technology.

What are your boundaries? Are you willing to negotiate or are they automatic un-matches? How low are you willing to go?

            People might assume dating apps are some hedonistic loosey goosey land where everyone follows their hearts or desires. That, my friends, is the road to unhappiness and empty pleasures. Boundaries are healthy, as a single person or in a relationship, and knowing what yours are can only draw in the people you generally want. If one of your boundaries, like mine, is that you rarely share social media then someone who disrespects or doesn’t understand that will make themselves scarce. Your boundaries don’t have to be rigid either. They can vary based on the circumstances or the individual; we’re all allowed to be flexible or weak. What you do if someone crosses a boundary is also up to you: you’re allowed to un-match them if the behavior is intolerable, remind them of the boundary and establish a mutual understanding, or give them as many chances as you want to. In my experience, though, a person who is willing to cross a small boundary without apology will generally disrespect larger ones if you don’t stick up for yourself. On the other hand, if a person does respect your boundaries then it’s probably a good sign. You’re okay to give into temptation and let someone in that maybe you shouldn’t have or make a bad judgment call—we’re human, and you can be lonely or hungry or horny or want attention. I’m not saying keeping walls up is a good thing, but, sometimes, they’ll help you find the right person to climb them.

Will these questions help you on a dating app? Maybe. Maybe not. At the very least, they’ll help you when it’s 3AM and someone has slid a spicy message into your inbox. If you know what you want, who you want, and how far you’re willing to go, then it will save you some time in the thought process. There will be good experiences, funny anecdotes, heartbreaks, and fakes a plenty. You just have to be the best “you” you can be, and hope that will bring what you’re looking for.